PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22191

Address to Parliament Parliament House, Canberra

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 27/03/2006

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 22191

Mr Speaker, it is with a great deal of pleasure, both on a personal basis and I know on behalf of all of the people of Australia whatever their political convictions, to welcome to this parliament the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Let us take the occasion to say unconditionally and without any reservation at all, how much this nation of Australia owes to its British inheritance. Whatever debates we may have in the future about the constitutional arrangements in this country, nothing can erase the debt we owe to our British legacy and inheritance. Nothing can alter the fact that the great institutions of this country are institutions that we have derived from the British Isles - fashioned, tempered, altered and moulded to our own Australian purposes - but nonetheless that golden thread of association with parliamentary democracy developed according to the Westminster tradition, the rule of law and the nature of our political discourse. And for all the differences that may have emerged over the years, nothing can alter the fact that the political cultures of our two countries still have many, many things in common.

And as we reflect on that inheritance and as we Australians pay full tribute to the British for what they gifted through that inheritance to this country, let us always remember the things that we have shared together in the past. Our two countries have stood together in defence of common values and universal truths and liberties, often at very great cost. History will never forget that in 12 desperate months in 1940 Great Britain, aided by Australia and a number of other Commonwealth countries, stood alone without other assistance, against the spread of Nazi tyranny. And in the immortal words of the greatest figure of the 20th Century, Winston Churchill, it was indeed not just the finest hour of the people of the British Isles but it was the finest hour of a broader family that have stared down a foul and monstrous tyranny.

Mr Speaker, our guest today brings to his great office and to the leadership of a great country, great personal qualities. I did not know Tony Blair when I was elected Prime Minister of Australia any more than I believe he knew me when he was elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. And of course, it's a matter of public record that we come from divergent sides of the political debate in our two countries. But that has not altered in any way the capacity of the two of us to work for the benefit of our peoples. My job as Prime Minister of Australia is to represent the interests of my country and to interact with the leaders of other countries to the best of my ability. And in Tony Blair I have found a man of courage, of moral purpose, of high intelligence, of a capacity to articulate with great clarity the challenges of the contemporary world.

I have found him on a personal basis, likeable, great company and a person who shares an avid interest in this country and the future of this country. I think it is fair to say that nobody in the aftermath of the 11th of September 2001 better articulated the reality that that was an attack not just on the people of the United States, but also upon the values and the people of a common family of nations of which we are a part around the world.

And I pay tribute unconditionally to the strength of Tony Blair's conviction to the fight against terrorism. Australian and British forces are serving together against an insurgency and against terrorism, bravely and courageously, in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We stand shoulder to shoulder as governments, and I pay tribute to the service and, sadly, in a number of cases on the part of the British, the sacrifice of our forces. Let us take this opportunity to record across the political divide - and I know that will be shared by the Leader of the Opposition - our enduring respect for the courage and commitment of the fighting men and women of both Australia and Great Britain.

Tony Blair is no stranger to Australia, he's no stranger to Australians and his friendships with many are well known. It's recorded that his great friend the Anglican priest Peter Thomson said that and I quote, 'The thing you have to understand about Tony Blair is that he is an Australian.' Perhaps, in that spirit, I could say, 'Well where the hell have you been?' Winston Churchill, when he addressed a joint sitting of the United States Congress, famously remarked that if his father had been American and his mother British, instead of the other way round, he might have got there on his own.

Well perhaps Tony, if you had literally been an Australian, I am sure that you would have got here on your own and I am sure that you would have made a magnificent contribution. But you have served your great country, your great country, with enormous commitment and distinction. I am delighted, as a self-confessed supporter unconditionally, of the relationship between Australia and Great Britain, I am delighted to welcome you here today. You come as a friend, you come as an esteemed international statesman, the leader of a great country to which my country owes so much. And on behalf of the Government and the people of Australia, I welcome you.

[ends]

Transcript 22191